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Meet our participants

Nearly 200 graduates and career-changers have joined Think Ahead so far. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and have studied at more than 50 different universities, with undergraduate degrees ranging from psychology, sociology, and politics, to archaeology, drama, and sports science.

Every Think Ahead participant is dedicated to making a real difference to people with mental health problems.

Here you can read about six of them.

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It was the opportunity to be out on the frontline helping people that really sold Think Ahead to me.

Jack – University of Warwick graduate 

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Social work can really improve people’s lives, helping with the social situations that play a big role in mental health.

Aisha – Queen Mary University of London graduate

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The fast-track, on-the-job nature of the programme stood out as being particularly impressive.

Jake – University of Cambridge graduate

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I wanted a career where I could make a tangible difference. Everything Think Ahead offered really spoke to me. 

Amy – University of Oxford graduate

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Each day is different and I welcome having to think on my feet and the spontaneity it brings.

Kazim – University of Nottingham graduate 

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Social work is so holistic and practical. You get out and empower people. That’s how I want to help.

Sonya – University of Manchester graduate

The Think Ahead attributes

Think Ahead is an intensive programme with strictly limited places, and the selection process is very rigorous.

We are looking for exceptional individuals who have the potential to become excellent mental health social workers, and go on to become leaders in their fields.

You don’t need any prior experience of social work, but you will need to demonstrate that you have the attributes necessary to excel on the Think Ahead programme and beyond.

To be successful, you will need to demonstrate all of these attributes:

Leadership

The ability to act as a professional role model, demonstrate initiative, and engage others and enable them to achieve their goals.

As a mental health social worker you will lead the coordination of individuals’ care, engaging with different colleagues and professionals to work towards someone’s recovery. You may need to be creative in your approach to situations as you work with individuals, their carers, and other professionals.

Motivation

Personal commitment to transforming the lives of people with mental illness, with an understanding of the positive impact of social work and the Think Ahead mission.

We are looking for people who are committed to making a positive impact for individuals, families, and communities. You need to understand how social work contributes to improving mental health, and how Think Ahead is making a difference.

Adaptability

Resilience and flexibility in changing circumstances, with the ability to work under pressure and deal with uncertain or unexpected outcomes.

Social work is an ever-changing environment and you will need to be prepared for every eventuality, including crisis situations. Your work with vulnerable adults will put you under pressure, and you will need to remain calm and patient in unexpected situations. You will work with a variety of different people in a range of working environments.

Relationship-building

Empathy and respect for all individuals, with the ability to build relationships and understand people’s motives and perspectives.

You will need to develop strong relationships with people, from service users and carers to colleagues in mental health, government, the legal system, and many other services. You must be able to listen to others and respect their opinions, and confidently put forward your views as an advocate for the people in your care.

Communication

The ability to collaborate with and influence a wide range of people, in person and through written communication.

You will need to communicate effectively and respectfully with people whose ability to communicate may be impaired by their illness. A vital element of your role will also be collaborating and negotiating with other mental health professionals (such as psychiatrists and psychologists) and people from other organisations. As well as communicating assertively in meetings and discussions, you will need to create robust, concise written arguments, for example in writing Mental Health Act tribunal reports.

Problem-solving

The ability to objectively analyse situations, using evidence and clear judgement to generate effective solutions.

You will have to make decisions under pressure, in complex situations with only conflicting or incomplete information available. This will require you to apply your knowledge of legislation, policy, and social work interventions, using clear judgement and objectivity.

Self-awareness

The ability to understand, and reflect critically on, both your own personal development and how your actions affect others.

To manage your personal wellbeing and your impact on the people you work with, you must be in touch with your own emotions and abilities. You will manage a pressured workload and face difficult ethical judgements, so you must be aware of professional boundaries and know when to seek support and advice. You will be required to regularly reflect on your work, seeking feedback and engaging in continuous professional development.